Monday, October 31, 2011

Scary Stories

  Freak me out!!! Do you love scary stories?
  There’s a wide gamut from ‘round the campfire chills that end in “Boo!” or eerie mind teasers to chain saw gore. I admit that I don’t care for the latter, but who doesn’t like to be scared sometimes—even just a little bit? The relief afterward feels soooo good. This tension and release element is a tool to master in any genre of writing. You don’t have to write Horror to make your readers hope and fear for the life of your main character. That’s plain, good writing!
  If you’re looking for a good scary story that still lets you sleep at night, I’d like to recommend the Dan Wells series I Am Not a Serial Killer, Mr. Monster, and I Don’t Want to Kill You. It starts out with fifteen year-old sociopath John Cleaver (love the last name—it reminds me of what J.K. Rowling does with her character names) explaining his job in the family mortuary and his detachment to relationships. I found the first hundred pages interesting but not hooking. Another reader promised me it would be worthwhile to continue. She was right. The story gets better from there and so does the writing. Admittedly, I skipped the middle book because the third one landed in my hands instead. It captured me from the beginning but I found the ending to be amazing—full of twists and thrills with a sacrifice that reflected Christ archetypes and turned the tide for John’s normalcy. Loved the ending!
  What scary stories have you loved? 

Monday, October 24, 2011

How Many Times Before I'm Through?

  What’s your favorite revision method? (I’m talking about the near-final draft revisions where a critique group or alpha readers has already given their two cents.) There’s hundreds of ways and I’m in the thick of it right now. I’d love to hear your tips and comments, your successes and horror stories.
  Do you color code things to see how action or dialogue is spaced or which character is giving the point of view? I’m a visual person but it sounds like a lot of work. Perhaps it is worth it. How many votes out there like color coding?
  Maybe you start with a search engine to filter all those naughty little words that creep in very suddenly. You know—was, that, very, suddenly. Getting rid of those critters can do a lot to clean up before the next reading.
  Checklists are valuable for thoroughness. It’s a nice feel to check off each detail but there’s so dang many of them and they suggest you comb through focusing on one at a time. I’d get sick of reading each scene one hundred times. *Sigh*
  It takes a great deal of work but I want to get it as right as possible. There’s no way I’m going to put my work out there for the public eye unless I’ve given it my best. On the other hand, I can’t spend half my life on one manuscript. They say it gets easier the more you do it . . . . Time to get back to work.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Good Words

  My son is home recovering from surgery. It was a shock to him to feel weak and recognize that healing will take some time. It got me thinking about this instantly gratified generation. We want fast food, fast internet, the fast lane. In reality, many times the saying is true about good things coming to those who wait. Such it is with the writing craft.
  Getting published takes time and hard work. Staying positive goes a long way whether one is recovering from surgery or writing setbacks. What can we do along the mountainous road to keep our chins up and our fingers flying? Many things. Recognize that there's always gonna be another mountain, even after one is published. Find joy in the journey. Think of how far you've come, how much you've grown, the goals you've accomplished. Celebrate every thousand words with a little chocolate. You get the idea. Find what works for you.
  Now that I'm doing revisions, I see a lot of mistakes. But it only means I've learned something. Finding weak verbs, those thought words, that telling instead of showing. That's progress, right? Growth. Encouragement. Patience. Those are good words. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Award-Winning Entry

  Thrilled to receive notification of First Place for the second time this year, I am including an excerpt from the winning entry for my post today. The complete chapter won first place in contests for both the 2011 LDStorymakers and League of Utah Writers (LUW) conferences. I am honored to share this with you and hope you enjoy reading it.
Chapter One 
About 90 B.C.
  Princess Karlinah hid a secret that could kill her. It felt as if it were buried in the pit of her queasy stomach. She quickly lowered her head as she approached her father-in-law where he glowered upon his throne. His scowl mirrored her husband’s while she fought with him last night. Shaking off the image, she bent her knees to the tiled floor and bowed. She rose when invited, keeping her gaze just below the king’s eyes. “You sent for me, great one?”
  The Lamanite king of the land of Jerusalem dipped his feathered headdress in reply and sent back the servants waving palm fronds. He stood and motioned Karlinah forward.
  Karlinah trembled. Dread filled her as awareness of the private nature and seriousness of the conversation increased. He meant to accuse her, she just knew it. She struggled to push her feet forward, took two slow breaths, and looked at him.
  “There is no easy way to say this.” His matter-of-fact voice belied the gravity of his words. “My son is dead. Murdered.”
  “Murdered?” Karlinah echoed, eyebrows raised. What a strong word to describe what had happened to her new husband. But she would never get the chance to explain. Regretting that the word slipped, she covered her mouth with her hand. It might have sounded like a confession for how nervous she must look. A quivering gasp escaped her lungs as Karlinah locked eyes with his. Had she betrayed herself?

More about The Seventh City:
A secret. A death. A spirited, sixteen year-old widow. For the young, Mayan princess it was either kill or be killed. Then a Nephite missionary comes to preach about repentance. Can Karlinah gain acceptance and remarry without revealing her secret?
I am currently revising the rest of the manuscript in preparation for submitting. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Picking Books and a Review

I found Eyes Like Mine by Julie Wright (2009) a satisfying, heart-warming read that I would recommend. Liz King, a current teen with multiple struggles, doesn’t know what to do with Constance, a young pioneer woman with a family connection who appears to have traveled through time to help her. The more Constance tries to solve Liz’s problems so she can go back to find her husband and baby, the more she seems to do the wrong things. I enjoyed seeing their relationship develop, what would happen with the boy next door, a bit of pioneer history and genealogy thrown in the mix, and unexpected turns. No slumps. Just good, tight writing in an enjoyable feel-good story. Want to know what rating I gave this book? Was the review enough to entice? You can click on Renae’s Reads on the sidebar to take you to my Goodreads ratings and see what I’ve been reading. So, here’s my question on which to comment: How do you pick a book to read? Do you rely on word of mouth or reviews, reader ratings, best-seller lists, the book or author that everyone seems to be talking about or what is on the library shelves? I’ve used several of the above at various times. We may not always concur with the recommendations, but it’s a good place to start. Happy reading this month!